Chicago park advocacy group seeking to block Obama presidential library turns to Supreme Court

on Aug18
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A park advocacy group in Chicago is trying to block construction of an Obama presidential library, claiming that it would be irreparably harmful to the local environment and that those behind the project evaded a federally required review process.

Groundbreaking and excavation work on the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park began Monday with trees scheduled to be cut on Sept. 1. It is being contested by groups led by the organization Protect Our Parks, which claims that putting the center there would harm historical areas, negatively impact wildlife and disrupt traffic by destroying roads.


“In constructing the OPC, Respondents will need to demolish significant parts of Jackson Park, its historical resources, parkland, and trees, which will, in turn, adversely affect the human environment, the historic landscape, wildlife, and migratory birds,” the group said in an emergency request for a temporary injunction filed with the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

While they could not stop the initial groundbreaking, the opponents of the center are hoping to prevent the cutting down of what they estimate to be at least 800 trees.

“This wanton act will have a significant impact on migratory birds and their nesting practices, which will be accompanied by an increase in dust, noise, and a decline in air quality, compromising public health in the surrounding community,” they claim. “Once those trees are cut down, there is no turning back, as any planted saplings will take at least a generation to mature – should they even survive.”


Additionally, they say the construction would ruin Jackson Park, “a National Register of Historical Places park created by [Frederick Law] Olmsted, the greatest American landscape architect,” as 30 acres would “be lost for the public enjoyment forever.”

Their legal argument is that federal law required the project to go through a formal review process, including an analysis to see if there was an alternative plan that would avoid or minimize the impact on the land and environment. The group asserts that the center avoided such a review because the project was broken down through an “illegal practice” of segmenting the project into smaller projects that did not require that kind of analysis.

As a result, it claims, those behind the center avoided looking at alternative options, including an available site to the west of the park.

Officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is named as a defendant in his official capacity, countered that the center was not subject to that kind of federal review because it is a local project that does not have transportation purposes. Park advocates reject that idea, noting that the project involves removing roads.

Fox News asked the Department of Transportation for comment, but it did not immediately respond.


A lower court had ruled against center’s opponents, who want the Supreme Court to block the project for the duration of their appeal. Based on geography, the request for injunction will go to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who could rule on it herself or allow the full court to weigh in on the matter.

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